While H&M have made a lot of noise about their sustainable credentials, with results that are at best open to question and at worst to accusations of blatant green-washing, Britain’s other store that can be abbreviated to two letters and an ampersand is quietly making some big changes.
In the past couple of weeks Marks and Spencer have announced three major new initiatives that put them very much in the lead when it comes to greening the High Street. A Sustainable Fashion Lab, run in association with the London School of Fashion, is running now until May 9th at the Old Truman Brewery in East London, holding talks, workshops and the chance to design your own pieces. Entrance is free, as long as you bring an unwanted piece of clothing that can be repurposed on site or donated to Oxfam.
On that subject, M&S have also just launched their ”shwopping” campaign, headed up by comedy fashionista Joanna Lumley. The idea is simple, and hooks into their earlier collaboration with Oxfam. Bring in an item of clothing when you buy something new from M&S and you get entered into prize draws and competitions. The eventual aim is for the chain to recycle as many clothes as it sells - 350 million items a year. It's a big idea, and if it takes off could have massive implications for the way we shop.
Finally, a small thing that shows how attention to detail can have surprising benefits. M&S have announced plans to make their labels from recycled PET (shredded plastic bottles melted and spun into yarn) instead of virgin polyester. Which might not seem like much, but they make 300 million of the little blighters a year. The new labels will also carry a reminder to use the M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange, which offers rewards to customers that donate old clothing to Oxfam stores in exchange for an M&S money-off voucher.
The Plan A initiative that M&S began to roll out a couple of years ago has seen the retailer embrace change and innovation at all levels of its business, from factory to store room to shop floor. These new announcements show a company that's confidant and forward thinking, and fully aware that when it comes to high street sales, green means go.